Experiments & experiences,  Foodie Life

{Kitchen Diaries} Sometimes experimentation is necessary

Hey guys! It’s been a while since I spent some productive time in the kitchen (which means I’m a little short on recipes at the moment) so I thought I’d just write about my baking experiences lately.

I’ve been food blogging for a while now and have not been shy in sharing every success and milestone, but I guess you already know that the recipes you see up on the blog do not make up the whole story. I’ve had my fair share of epic and crazy kitchen failures as well, and I just thought it would be nice to give you a little glimpse behind the… Well, not exactly “ugly” per se– but the less glamorous aspect of my food blogging. You know, my recipes-gone-wild moments.

At the beginning of my blogging, I felt absolutely terrible about every one of my misses, remembering them at length and feeling hesitant about attempting anything similar again. It’s a bad habit of mine to kind of mentally berate myself over my own shortcomings. However as I matured a bit more, instead of feeling down about my failures I have learned that the right response is to find something to glean from them. It’s the same case with my foodie journey. Whether the recipe or experience was a disappointment or a success, there are always lessons to learn. Failures and misses are part of the process, and if I don’t fail every once in a while I would start to wonder if I’m doing it right.

Case in point, the following two recipes.

One of my favourite things to experiment with lately are macarons. Ever since I figured out how to make them, it’s like I want to make every possible flavour in the world. One day I scored a bag of hazelnuts (which are expensive around here!) and I remembered marking this macaron recipe that involved a mixture of hazelnuts and almonds. I decided it would be a worthy recipe to use my precious hazelnuts on so I was so excited when I got into the kitchen.

Unfortunately my lack of experience came into play. Since I’ve never made macarons using any other nut, I couldn’t eyeball if the consistency of my batter was correct. I followed all the signs for a regular macaron batter, but this one was a lot thicker and grainier than normal. In hindsight, I should have ground my nuts more finely and maybe folded my egg whites a little bit more to loosen the batter.

In the end, they turned into macaroon-like cookies instead of rising and forming true macaron feet. I watched them in the oven anxiously so I know they actually tried very hard to form feet, but it was not meant to be.

Good news is, they tasted really good. While I was supposed to make a Nutella buttercream filling with these macarons, I decided to spread just Nutella on top instead. The Nutella makes them taste even better. I tried to sandwich the cookies with Nutella ala macarons too, but for me they turned out too sweet that way. Luckily my brothers still scarfed them down. I mean let’s face it, slathering Nutella on anything changes the game completely!

The cookies I sandwiched into macarons were still cute as a button, though I would prefer to call them Hazelnut-Almond Sandwich Cookies.

If you’re a much better macaron-baker than I am, perhaps you could go and check out the recipe and see if you have better luck at it than I do!

I didn’t feel so bad about my hazelnut macaron mishap, but I certainly felt a little worse for my next failed recipe. I’ve been wanting to make Brazo de Mercedes for quite a while. It’s this popular Filipino marshmallow meringue roll filled with a sweet condensed milk-based custard. The cake itself is very mushy so the combination of textures is quite pleasant. When I finally got round to making it, I actually decided it would be a good recipe to use in launching this new video tutorial segment I’ve been thinking of making a regular thing on the blog. Everything was going smoothly at the beginning, and right up until I put the meringue in the oven, I was pleased with my progress and the quality of videos taken.

Alas, as I peeled off the parchment paper (you can see it on the 8th frame above), I find my cake stuck to it. For the life of me, I don’t know why I didn’t just follow instructions and grease the paper! My cake was also so thin, rolling it became pretty impossible without breaking it apart. I literally began to feel like I was in one of those Internet memes about expectations versus reality. My cake turned out unappealing, especially when compared to the gorgeousness that it is supposed to look like.

Also, my custard is a little more liquid than the norm, but that’s because I got tired of stirring as I cooked it. As soon as I saw the mixture coating my spoon, I stopped. Most of the time the filling to the brazo de mercedes is thick and almost paste-like, versus mine that was actually runny even after a spell in the fridge. But despite its awkward appearance, it actually tasted like the real thing.

Now if you’re going to make this delicious treat, here are some of my personal pointers I wish I recalled as I made the recipe:

  • Always grease your parchment paper. Since the meringue is a marshmallow-like cake, there is a certain amount of care applied to peeling off the parchment paper from the cake.
  • Make sure your custard is cooked into an actual slightly thickened custard.
  • Beat your egg whites until really stiff peaks so that your cake will have some body once it rises. I think this is the major reason why I failed at this recipe. 🙁

When it comes to food blogging, sometimes I get so ahead of myself that I have already come up with the blog entry as I’m making the recipe, which is awesome for when they come out impeccably since that’s half the work done. But during the times they don’t it feels like such a waste. Luckily despite not turning out the way they are supposed to, both these recipes compensated because of their taste. I’m glad I still managed to score a half-win somehow!


  • gottagetbaked

    I’m so glad you shared this post! I have no qualms about blogging my epic fails. It just shows I’m human and far from perfect. You’re totally right about learning something from all of our experiences. While your macarons may not have turned out the way you like, I still think they look fabulous and as long as they tasted good, it’s not a total loss. This is one reason why I haven’t ventured into recipe development, aside from lack of time. I don’t want to waste my time and money making something that will go into the garbage. I’m going to keep Einstein’s quote in mind from now on!

    • Cla Panuelos

      I have the same thoughts about recipe development as well. Aside from the fact that I have zero background on food aside from things I’m learning thanks to the blog, I always feel bad about throwing stuff into the garbage. And I would hate myself for wasting so much time when there are plenty of existing recipes to try or adapt from!

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